Happy Centenary: 94 ways to hang a pig: Part 1

William Hartston
Saturday 22 October 2011 21:57

IN THE same spirit as our regular Happy Anniversary feature, we are pleased to offer our list of notable centenaries, bicentenaries, half-centenaries, sesquicentenaries and the like to be celebrated in the forthcoming year. While other such lists might delight in noting that El Cid took Valencia in 1094, or that the Bank of England was founded in 1694, or Robespierre fell in 1794, or the Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, we prefer to draw attention to the remarkable number of pigs hanged by the various classes of '94. We shall take our anniversaries chronologically:

2,300 years

In 307BC, Demetrius Poliorcetes, son of Antigonus the One-Eyed, took control of Athens.

2,200 years

In 207BC, Hasdrubal, Hannibal's brother, crossed the Alps.

2,100 years

In 107BC in Rome, General Gaius Martius created a new model army, for the first time taking recruits from outside the five wealthiest classes.

1,600 years

In 394 (on 6 September to be precise), the Battle of the River Frigidus was fought, at which Theodosius became the sole Emperor of Rome by defeating and killing the usurper Eugenius and his general Arbogast.

1,400 years

In 594 the plague which had ravaged Europe for over 50 years finally ended, leaving the population of the Roman Empire halved.

1,300 years

In 694 the Visigothic Council of Toledo decreed the enslavement of all Spanish Jews.

1,200 years

In 794, the Emperor Kammu of Japan moved the capital to Kyoto, away from the powerful influence of the Buddhists.

900 years

The Anti-Pope Clement III was deposed in 1094, which was also the year of the first recorded mention of gondolas in Venice.

800 years

On 4 February 1194, Richard the Lionheart was freed after paying a large ransom to Emperor Henry VI of Austria. He returned home briefly where, in the same year, he appointed England's first coroners.

600 years

In 1394 a pig was found guilty of 'having killed and murdered a child in the parish of Roumaygne, in the county of Mortaing'. The pig was condemned to be hanged. The fact that the pig 'ate of its flesh, although it was Friday' was judged to be a serious aggravation of the offence. Another pig was also hanged in Mortaing the same year for having sacrilegiously eaten a consecrated wafer.

In the same year, but totally unconnected with the pigs, King Charles VI of France issued a decree expelling Jews from France.

500 years

In 1494, a young pig was arrested in Clermont for having 'strangled and defaced a young child in its cradle'. The judge decided that an example had to be made of it and 'said porker shall be hanged and strangled on a gibbet of wood'.

In the same year, Christopher Columbus landed on an island which he named Santa Gloria. The name was later changed to Jamaica.

In 1494 also, a new and highly contagious disease arrived in Europe with cases seen in France, Spain and Italy. Dubbed 'the French pox' it seemed to take hold wherever the armies of Charles VIII rampaged, though the general belief was that it was a divine punishment for over-indulgence in matters of the flesh. It later became known as syphilis.

400 years

1594 was when trigonometry hit Britain. It was explained in Thomas Blundeville's Exercises, published that year.

300 years

Two important events happened in 1694 which have had repercussions to the present day: Queen Mary, wife of William III, died, which is why barristers have, since then, been wearing black. And Sir John Trevor ceased to be the Speaker of the House of Commons, a post he had held since 1690. It is said that Sir John's marked squint is the reason that all later Speakers were required to call members by name to speak, rather than risk again the confusion of his unreliable pointing. 1694 was also the year lamp-posts made their first appearance in Britain, erected in the City of London by the Convex Light Company.

250 years

'Baa Baa Black Sheep' was first published in 1744 in Tommy Thumb's Song Book, the first collection of nursery rhymes in English.

200 years

In 1794, Edmund Bond became the first vet to qualify in Britain and the Gallery of Fashion, Britain's first fashion magazine, was launched.

In the same year, the British chemist and physicist John Dalton gave the first description of colour-blindedness, also known as Daltonism, in a paper entitled 'Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours'.

Across the Atlantic, the United States Navy was formed, while the French kept their edge in military technology with the first use of observational balloons in warfare.

150 years

In the Mexico City riot of 1844, the leg of Antonio Santa Anna, President of Mexico, was stolen from the Pantheon of Saint Paula. The leg had been amputated after being wounded in battle in 1838. It was ceremonially buried in 1842.

In Hartford, Connecticut, 1844 was the year of the first dental extraction using nitrous oxide as an anaesthetic.

100 years

In 1894, Hildebrand and Wolfmuller designed the first mass-produced motor-cycle. The same year saw the first car race (from Paris to Rouen), the first chewing-gum manufactured in Britain (though the Americans had already had it for 20 years), the opening of the Blackpool Tower and the death of Amelia Jenks Bloomer, eponym of the undergarment. It was also the year of the first strip-tease on the stage of a theatre, at the Divan Fayouau Music Hall in Paris, while in Manchester Simon Marks and Tom Spencer opened their first Penny Bazaar.

The first Martians were also conjectured in 1894, by Robert Lowell in Arizona, whose telescopic inspections of Mars convinced him of the existence of canals that had been built by a race of intelligent beings.

1894 was also the year of the last steam-powered flight by a heavier-than-air machine. Sir Hiram Maxim, inventor of the Maxim Machine gun, turned his attention to flight and produced a huge biplane, powered by a 300hp engine, running with guide-tracks on rails bcause it was uncontrollable in the air. More culturally, Napoleon Bird, a barber from Stockport, played the piano for 48 hours without stopping, working entirely from memory and never repeating a piece of music. 1894 was also the year picture postcards became legal in Britain.

50 years

In 1944, tests on 3,341 children in Bath were claimed to show that babies conceived in winter are more intelligent. Meanwhile a sub-committee of the House Military Affairs Committee of the US Congress (which one might surmise had been conceived in summer) opposed the distribution to the US armed forces of a pamphlet entitled 'The Races of Mankind' on the grounds (among other reasons) that Adam and Eve were depicted with navels.

Also in America, the Manhattan Ear, Nose and Throat and the New York Hospitals jointly opened the first eye bank.

In England, three women and a man were convicted, under the 1735 Witchcraft Act, of pretending to be mediums, while the war effort was helped by the ball-point pen when Henry Martin started to produce Laszlo Biro's invention for the RAF. He had been looking for something that would help pilots and navigators make calculations at high altitude, when most pens failed. Working in an aircraft hangar, Martin's staff of 17 made 30,000 pens for the RAF in a year.

On the other side of the war, a duck alerted the town of Freiburg to an impending air-raid, and had a statue erected in its honour, and Germany became the first country to introduce post-codes.

Tomorrow, Happy Centenary will feature some of the English words celebrating notable anniversaries in 1994.